Autograph, London

Reclaiming History: Power and Visibility

Fri 14 Jun || 6 - 7:30pm

Past event
Performance and Panel Discussion

Live cello performance and discussion, reflecting on the history of the cotton trade and reclaiming black visibility


Rivington Place
London EC2A 3BA, UK

past event

This event is now closed. View our current events here


Focused on the intricate dynamics of visibility and authority, Autograph's upcoming exhibition Talking Back to Power proposes a reclamation of black visibility. C. Rose Smith’s evocative black and white self-portraits revolve around the white cotton shirt, staged at locations affiliated with the wealth generated from cotton plantations in the Southern United States of America.

Join us in the gallery, where Smith will discuss how she uses photography to reclaim spaces that hold a history of oppression and trauma. She will be joined by multi-disciplinary artist Gary Washington, who will expand on his research into the cotton industry - and how this has influenced his music. The conversation will be chaired by researcher Serena Robinson, whose work explores the international history of the cotton trade and the British cities that profited from the exploitation of enslaved African people.

After the panel discussion Gary Washington will perform his cello piece A Story of A People Called Black in the exhibition space.

To ensure the best experience, a very limited number of tickets are available to this event. Autograph's events are popular and we recommend early booking.


C. Rose Smith

C. Rose Smith (born 1995), is a visual artist examining the role of photography in constructing the layers of identity and individuality.

Using fashion, site-specificity and elements gleaned from studio-portraiture, her photographs engender a subversive performance that gestures a critique of social norms. Her work has been exhibited in group exhibitions in the U.S. and Europe, and is held in private collections. Smith is an MFA candidate in Photography at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY and earned a BFA in Photography from Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, GA. She is based in Memphis, TN.

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Serena Robinson

Serena is a Senior Researcher at the Runnymede Trust, a leading racial equality think tank.

With extensive experience in researching the intricate connections between Manchester's cotton industry and the transatlantic slave trade, Serena brings a profound understanding of historical and contemporary issues of racial justice. Their work delves deeply into the intersections of race and gender, exploring how these dynamics shape diverse experiences.

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Gary Washington

Gary Washington AKA “TheUrbanCellist is a multi-disciplinary artist, whose roots come from playing professionally in New Orleans.

Gary has created his own unique sound, interspersing his vocals, beatboxing and layering it all while playing cello at the same time.

Gary is classically trained along with being rooted in the jazz tradition. Gary Washington is also a composer and has recently started the orchestra called “Monumentalist Ensemble”. This group plays a wide range in music from orchestral music to jazz to hip hop. Monumentalist Ensemble premiered “Black Transcendental Suite” (string quartet) and Monumentalist Ensemble premiered “a story of a people called black” (50 piece orchestra). Those compositions were all written by Gary Washington.

Gary is a dynamic artist and a unique talent, he is pushing boundaries of the cello in his unique way. Gary plays solo shows, jazz gigs, orchestral performances and everything in between.

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C. Rose Smith: Talking Back to Power

Confronting the histories of violence and wealth on cotton plantations in the Southern United States, Talking Back To Power proposes a reclamation of black visibility

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Everyone is welcome at Autograph. Planning a visit? Have a look at our Visit Us page to find out more about getting to the gallery, accessibility and more.


Accessible VEnue

Autograph welcomes people with all types of disabilities


Step free

Our building and entrance is step free. A wheelchair accessible lift goes to all floors


The panel discussion will be seated, and take place in our Studio on the ground floor


The performance will take place in Gallery 2 on the second floor


The performance will be a standing event, chairs are available on request

Ticketing policy

The ticket price for this event is £5. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. If this ticket price is unaffordable for you, please get in touch with Harriet at about free ticketing options.

Autograph's events are very popular, and often sell out. To provide the best experience for everyone, tickets must be booked in advance for this event, and will not be available on the door. If you need to cancel your ticket for any reason, you can receive a refund up to 24 hours before the start of the event.

autograph is supported by

Banner image: C. Rose Smith, Untitled no. 40 [detail], Maginnis House, New Orleans, Louisiana, 2022. From the series Talking Back to Power. © and courtesy the artist.

Images on page: 1) Courtesy of C.Rose Smith (2024). 2) Courtesy of Serena Robinson. 3) Courtesy of Gary Washington. 4) C. Rose Smith, Untitled no. 55 [detail], Nottoway Plantation, White Castle, Louisiana, 2022. From the series Talking Back to Power. Courtesy the artist. 5) Autograph. Photograph by Zoë Maxwell.